by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
The King Village Site – Floyd County, Georgia
Look up the official histories of one of the “Earthlodge Peoples” of the Western Plains on Wikipedia. The better known tribes are the Kansa (Kaw), Quapaw, Paunee, Mandan, Arikara, Osage, Ponca, Omaha and Oto. They are classified as Dhegiha-Siouan by anthropologists. The articles will tell you . . . “Studies of their traditions and language show that they were part of a group of Dhegian-Siouan speaking people, who lived in the Ohio River valley area, extending into present-day Kentucky. According to their own stories, they migrated west as a result of war with the Iroquois and/or to reach more game.” This statement is referenced to a published speculation made by some professor in the Midwest, at some time in the past.
Hogwash! When first investigating the ethnicity of several “earthlodge” villages in Alabama and Georgia, I came across a statement from the federally-recognized Catawba Tribe in South Carolina. They say that all Siouans originated in the general region of South Carolina. Early white settlers in Southeast Tennessee said that the Mandans occupied the area around Chattanooga in NW Georgia and NE Alabama, until driven out by the Cherokees. These old Tennessee history texts are available on the web. Hm-m-m-m.
Further research revealed reports and books by ethnologists, who worked closely with the elders of the Dhegiha Peoples in the late 1800s through the late 20th century. They told a very different story. All of the Dhegiha elders stated that they originated in the Southeastern United States then migrated westward to the Mississippi then up the Mississippi River then up one of the rivers that flow into the Mississippi River such as the Missouri or Arkansas Rivers.
The Quapaw stated that they originated on Winyah Bay, SC and were visited by the earliest European explorers, sailing along the South Atlantic Coast. They left the region because of slave raids and European plagues.
The Mandan said that they originated on the Gulf Coast then migrated up the Alabama River to the Coosa River then eventually migrated down the Tennessee River to the Mississippi River. They eventually went up the Mississippi River to near its source then headed south again and went up the Missouri River.
Oh, did I mention that the original name of the Cherokee capital of New Echota in northwest Georgia on the Oostanaula River was Kansagiyi? That means “Old Place of the Kansa People” in Cherokee. Hm-m-m-m!
A fresh look at the King Village Site
Between 1970 and 1992, a relatively small Native American village site on the Coosa River, about 20 miles downstream from Rome, Georgia . . . in the northwestern corner of the state . . . received considerable national publicity. It was labeled the King Village Site after the name of an earlier property owner. Readers and viewers were told that this was definitely a place, visited by Hernando de Soto and probably, also 20 years later by an exploratory party, dispatched by the Tristan de Luna Expedition.
This was in a period in which the Hernando de Soto Expedition Chronicles were translated into English and numerous academicians were trying to find the actual route of the expedition’s rampage through the Southeast. After publication of the translation, several related books followed, which elevated their anthropology professor-authors to temporary “star” status.
The initial newspaper and professional articles on the King Site showed sketches by archaeology students, which looked absolutely nothing like traditional Creek Indian architectural and town planning traditions. Southeastern archaeologists repeatedly describe the village as a satellite of the great capital of Coosa at Carters Dam. They said that the village was “a Late Mississippian village of the Lamar Culture, which was occupied by ancestors of the Creeks.” Creeks living in Alabama, Georgia and Florida thought that was odd, but . . . these archaeologists were the experts and they were the ones, who wrote the books!
The US Army Corps of Engineers, who funded that dig, fixed that problem by paying a highly respected artist, who had done work for the National Park Service, to paint a village, which bore little resemblance to what the archaeologists found. The archaeological profession then sanctified the painting and that is only what you will see in all their books and Wikipedia articles.
The Southeastern archaeologists did exactly the same stunt at Etowah Mounds and Ocmulgee National Historic Park. Take a look at the painting accompanying the Wikipedia article on Etowah Mounds. The image bears no resemblance to what was actually there. The mounds were in different locations and were different shapes. Remote sensing techniques found the town densely built and laid out in housing blocks with interior courtyards.
During the late 20th century, the same style of houses at the King Site were found at Browns Mount near Macon, GA and on the Ocmulgee River near Warner-Robbins, GA. The LAMAR Institute published highly professional reports on these digs, but the public remains generally unaware that there were Western Plains earth lodges in Georgia, long before there were earth lodges on the Western Plains!
While working on a Downtown Revitalization project in Rome in 1999 and the first half of 2000, I lived on the site of the Battle of Etowah Cliffs in 1793. My house overlooked the Etowah River and downtown. I became curious about the region’s Native American history and also the discrepancies between the verbal descriptions of the King Site by archaeologists and its portrayal by artists. However, it took me another 20 years to seriously research this question. This video explains that research process. You are going to have many surprises.